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Final Regulations Issued on CFC Related Person Rules, Active Trade or Business Exception


Steve Grgas

Final Regulations Issued on CFC Related Person Rules, Active Trade or Business Exception

Final regulations provide rules on the attribution of ownership of stock or other interests, for determining whether a person is a related person with respect to a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) under the foreign base company sales income rules. The regulations also provide rules to determine whether a CFC receives rents in the active conduct of a trade or business, for determining the exception from foreign personal holding company income.

The regulations adopt without change, proposed regulations published on May 20, 2019 ( NPRM REG-125135-15).

Attribution of Ownership

The regulations provide specific rules for applying principles similar to those in the Code Sec. 958(b) constructive ownership rules when determining related person status under the foreign base company sales income rules. The determination of related person status is relevant for many purposes, including whether certain types of income can be characterized as subpart F foreign base company sales or service income.

A person is a related person with respect to a CFC if the person is:

  • an individual who controls the CFC,
  • an entity that controls or is controlled by the CFC, or
  • an entity that is controlled by the same person that controls the CFC.

Rules similar to those for determining stock ownership in Code Sec. 958 apply for purposes of determining whether a person is a related person. The regulations limit the application of the downward attribution rules in Code Sec. 318(a)(3), which apply by reference to the Code Sec. 958 stock ownership rules, and which attribute ownership downward from the owner of an entity to an entity. The downward attribution rules are applied regardless of the size of the ownership interest in a partnership, estate, or trust, but are applied to corporations based on a 50-percent or more ownership interest.

The regulations address concern that application of the downward attribution rules could inappropriately treat entities (including CFCs) that do not have significant relationships with each other as related persons. Accordingly, the regulations provide that the downward attribution rules of Code Sec. 318(a)(3) and Reg. §1.958-2(d) will not apply for purposes of determining related person status under the foreign base company sales income rules.

The change does not preclude a corporation, partnership, trust, or estate from being treated as controlled by the same person or persons that control the CFC under other rules that remain applicable for the related person rules.

Additionally, an anti-abuse rule is provided with respect to the option attribution rule in Code Sec. 318(a)(4). The option attribution rule in Code Sec. 318(a)(4) and Reg. §1.958-2(e) will not be applied to treat a person with an option as owning the stock or an equity interest for purposes of the related person rule if the principal purpose of using the option was to cause a person to be treated as a related person.

The regulations also incorporate a similar rule issued in section 7(d) of Notice 2007-9, 2007-1 CB 401. The rule applies if the principal purpose for the use of an option is to qualify dividends, interest, rents or royalties paid by a foreign corporation for the Code Sec. 954(c)(6) CFC look-through exception from foreign personal holding company income. The rule applies to tax years of CFCs beginning after December 31, 2006, and ending before November 19, 2019, and to tax years of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end.

Personal Holding Company Income

The regulations modify the foreign personal holding company rules for amounts paid or incurred by a CFC in connection with the CFC’s rental income and the active rents exception. Rents are excluded from foreign personal holding company income if the rents are:

  • received from a person other than a related person, and
  • from the active conduct of a trade or business.

If rents are from leasing property as a result of marketing activities, there must be a substantial marketing organization in order to meet the active trade or business test. Under a safe harbor, an organization is substantial if active leasing expenses equal or exceed 25 percent of adjusted leasing profit. If the CFC receives rents from property it does not own, the substantiality of the organization is determined net of those rent payments.

The regulations extend the rule to apply to royalties in addition to rents. As a result, the substantiality of the organization is determined under the safe harbor net of the rents or royalties paid or incurred by the lessor CFC, for the right to use the property (or a component part of the property) that generated the rental income.

Applicability Date

The regulations generally apply to tax years of CFCs ending on or after November 19, 2019, and to tax years of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end. The regulations on the downward attribution rule, and the option anti-abuse rule for use of the option to treat a person as a related person with respect to a CFC, apply to tax years of CFCs ending on or after May 17, 2019, and to tax years of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end, with respect to amounts received or accrued by a CFC on or after May 17, 2019, to the extent the amounts are received or accrued in advance of the period to which such amounts are attributable with a principal purpose of avoiding application of the rules.